The world was a better place in late March.
I’m not just saying that because I am temperamentally predisposed to believe that all things are get getting worse all the time and have been doing so forever. I’m not just saying that because it is colder now than it was then, and my little tootsies are chilly. I’m not just saying that because in late March I was marginally further away from death than I am today.
No, late March was glorious technicolour to today’s monochrome. It was the crisp snap of a freshly picked apple compared to the mealy disappointment of a Granny Smith that’s been revived from a six month cryogenic slumber. Late March was impossibly handsome Hound Dog Elvis. Today is a hamburger-bloated, sweat-drenched, Vegas-residency Elvis.
And why are things so much worse today that they were then?
Because in late March the feijoas were new.
My son and I spend a good chunk of the late summer standing on the side of the road looking at feijoa tress. We try to work out how much longer they have got. When will those curiously pohutukawa-like flowers set into fruit? How long till the fruit grows to an acceptable size? When will they be ripe enough to pick?
Drivers slow down to try and gawp at what we’re gawping at. We’re a public nuisance. We have been spoken about in council meetings.
I, like any person of delicacy and taste, prefer feijoas on the unripe side. I like them when the daisy-shaped core of seeds is still a ghostly suggestion on the white flesh of the freshly sliced feijoa. When they are firm and tart. When you need to work to drag the teaspoon around the inner skin to produce a perfect demi-egg of banana/pineapple/soap tasting flesh.
That week or two when the feijoas are just becoming edible is a great time to live in the suburbs. We scour the streets. We whoop at the size of this one. Gnash our teeth at the unreadiness of that one. We don’t have our own trees, so we partake in the fruit of our neighbours. We don’t ask permission. If we can reach them from the footpath, then they’re fair game.
By mid-April the mood shifts. Our fridge is filling up with the things. Neighbours pop round with plastic bags full of them. The average texture has gone from brand-new-softball to tennis-ball-with-hole-in-it. We still eat them, but we don’t seek them out.
By late May they fill me with dread. We avoid eye contact with the neighbours, terrified they’ll try and force another bulging, muck-covered bag-for-life into our unwilling hands. The fruit stares at me from the vegetable drawer accusingly. I dare not squeeze them. Hateful little hackey sacks. I wish them gone but can’t bring myself to compost them. I slip them into school lunches. That seems to be working but I suspect my son is feeding them to a friendly horse on the route home. I don’t care. I just want them gone.
I feel like feijoas are trying to teach me something. Something about the nature of desire and the suffering that it ultimately brings. I reckon Marcus Aurelius and the Buddha would have some interesting thoughts about the feijoa glut. But year in year out I learn nothing. The same old boom and bust, the same anticipation followed by disgust. I can get all philosophical about it now but come next March, I’ll be trawling the streets with my kid, looking at pretty flowers and wishing them impatiently into fruit, causing gridlock on the school run, and furtively touching up the neighbours’ fruit trees.
As Macbeth said about feijoas I imagine:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,